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OFF TO THE RACES: Benghazi Hearing Day

CLINTON: Here's NBC's curtain-raiser on what to know about the Benghazi hearing going into today.

She'll make the case for keeping American diplomats in dangerous parts of the world.

NBC's Andrew Rafferty offers this list of nine people to know in advance of the hearing.

Msnbc.com’s Alex Seitz-Wald notes that the stakes for Clinton have never been higher.

From the New York Times: "Some Democrats have speculated that Republicans will spend the first part of the hearing asking questions about Libya and then shift to ones about the private email server that Mrs. Clinton used while in office, in the hope that she will be tired and commit a gaffe."

The AP's walkup notes: "Gowdy pledged in a recent interview that the hearing will be "Benghazi-centric," focused on security before and during the attacks. Some questions on Clinton's emails are likely, Gowdy said, but he maintains that his approach may 'shock you with fairness.'"

The Times also reports on her preparation for the day. "[F]or all of Mrs. Clinton’s mastery over the substance related to Benghazi, the hearing in many ways will amount to a test of patience and will: To succeed politically, she must remain calm, take every question seriously and avoid outbursts during what is expected to be a daylong appearance, even amid her private frustration over what she sees as a Republican-led effort to hurt her presidential prospects."

And a new Monmouth poll shows that 52 percent of Americans think Clinton's use of a personal email account was a matter of convenience, while 33 percent say it suggests she has something to hide.

BIDEN: NBC's Alex Jaffe reports on how Biden got to 'no' over 80 days of indecision.

The New York Times, on his relationship with Clinton: "Meetings with his foreign policy aides veered into lengthy discussions about Mrs. Clinton’s hawkish stance. At dinners with donors, Mr. Biden expressed astonishment at her handling of the controversy over her private email server. Those close to him say the mere mention of her name could make him fume, and he viewed her family’s potent, sometimes punishing political machinery with growing resentment."

CARSON: He beats Trump in a new Quinnipiac poll of Iowa, 28 percent to 20 percent.

SANDERS: He's at 41 percent in Iowa with Biden out of the mix, compared to Clinton at 48 percent.

He suggested on Jimmy Kimmel that "I am not unfavorably disposed to moving toward the legalization of marijuana."

TRUMP: Hispanic conservatives are planning to meet in Boulder the day before the CNBC debate to respond to Trump.

He said he'd be open to closing mosques to fight ISIS.

And he told an Iowa audience that he'll beat Clinton in the general election.

CONGRESS: Ryan meets with House Freedom Caucus

From our Capitol Hill team: "A large majority of the House Freedom Caucus threw its support behind Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin to be the next House speaker Wednesday — not enough of them to win the influential conservative faction's endorsement, but enough for him to declare that Republicans are unified."

More, from the Washington Post: "Ryan could still decide not to serve as speaker, and some conservative activists have engaged in a vigorous campaign to cast doubt on his record, which might give some members cold feet before votes are cast next week. But the level of Freedom Caucus support represents the first thaw in the increasingly frosty relationship between tea party conservatives and establishment Republicans. It also paves the way for fresh GOP leadership heading into imminent clashes with President Obama over the national debt and federal spending."

Roll Call: “Ryan’s ability to win over one of the most disagreeable groups in the House is perhaps a testament to the abilities that members say make him a strong candidate for speaker. Ryan met with the Freedom Caucus Wednesday in his ceremonial Ways and Means office in the Capitol, and over the course of an hourlong discussion, he seemed to win over many of his colleagues.”

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